Just had a call from Jake this afternoon…

Ed: Jake! Looks like an excellent day for you! 14th on the stage today. How was it?

JS: It was good! It was long and the first 50km was rough, deep sand with plenty of ruts. You know how long it was today – 555km. The first bit was a hard slog, and there’s been a fair bit of water over here. The next leg of 60km was very muddy. After first refuel at 170km it became easier and faster. I didn’t push the limits or do anything stupid. I just rode at a pace where I felt comfortable. I let Jonah (Street, USA) by at about the 300km I think. He was pushing a bit to improve on the overall standings. I’d spoken to him at the start of the stage and he had said he was going to have a bit of a go. I saw him coming so I let him passed and just latched onto the back of him. We cruised like that to the finish. All in all, it was a pretty good day really!

Ed: He was only 2:30 minutes in front of you at the end of 555km. At a decent pace that’s not too far back behind someone who was “going for it”.

JS: Mate, it was good to ride without dust today to tell you the truth! I know we’re getting towards the end of the race but it shows just where you can end up if you can get up the front, stay out of trouble, get that gap and ride smooth. It sure is very promising for the future.

Ed: It’s worth looking at where everyone is forming up to finish this year. The likes of Despres and Coma are 365 day a year Dakar competitors. They are at this full time, training and racing. They do this for a living, but the rest of you are guys who have day jobs, restricted budgets and a “normal life” outside of this. Even when you have the talent it really does seem to come down to luck early in the race and then who has the best support. At the end of the two weeks, the riders consistently getting more sleep than the rest of the field seem to be doing better.

JS: Absolutely. But there are more than just those two who are pro’s this year. Quinn Cody is a full time racer in the US, Rodrigues and Lopez are also getting paid to do this, and they make up the top five at the moment. That’s why they are at the front. Talent is one thing, but the backing seals it.

Ed: You’re sounding really bright and sparky for someone who’s just battled through 555km of sand and mud today!

JS: Yeah, I can see we’re getting to the finish so there’s that light at the end of the tunnel to keep me excited. I honestly don’t feel too bad at the moment. Obviously I am fatigued and my muscles are pretty sore, but fitness-wise I am very good. To be honest, if I had to keep going another week I’d be able to do it. But knowing that the finish is tomorrow gives me that little bit of extra energy.

Ed: Tomorrow is a short special of 181km, but it is at the end of a fairly long transport. What time are you starting the time of day you start the timed section?

JS: The special starts for me at about 10.30 am, but I leave here for the liaison leg at 4.43 am. It’s going to be pretty fast and open. The average speed for the bikes is apparently about 130kph so it’s nearly a flat out run. I’ll still be taking it easy though. They said at the briefing tonight that 2 guys crashed out on the final day last year. You have to stay focussed right to the end so no crazy acts of courage!

Ed: The crew must be getting excited now things are coming to a close.

JS: Yeah, they are. It’s been exhausting for them. They’ve had had next to no sleep every night and they’re still working hard on the bike right now. I’m standing next to it with the front wheel and the tank off at the moment. They’ve just fitted a new pipe to it. They’re juts making sure that everything is OK, but the engine is right. It’s going to be a pretty good party tomorrow night. We are all looking forward to getting everything out of the way tomorrow, packing up and enjoying a couple of quiet beers I think!

Ed: You’ve earned them mate, so make them as loud as you want!

JS: You never know… Sunday only has a few things in store before we ride over the podium at the ceremonial finish. I think we’ve booked a motel for tomorrow night  so I’m dreaming of a hot shower, a real toilet and even a decent bed. Luxury!

Ed: When do you actually fly out of Argentina?

JS: Wednesday. We leave about 1.00 and we arrive back in Australia at about 5.30 in the afternoon on Thursday. It’s going to go quickly. We finish up the race, but then we need to pack up all our gear and make sure it’s absolutely spotless before we stash it in the container. We’ll spend most of Monday and Tuesday doing that. Wednesday will just be about getting to the airport and on our way. It’s not going to be a holiday! Tomorrow is the end for me, but then the logistics crank right up again. It’s certainly not the end of the race. The boys have so much to do. The truck and container have to go back to the docks so we won’t be resting until we are home I can tell ya!

Ed: Well I expect a written report on the Argentine beer tomorrow night but then you can call it “finished”!

JS: “Dos cervezas”, that’s all you need to know! That word “finished” sounds very, very good.

Some pics from the last 24 hours…

Mark Davidson and "Mike" the Texan. These two were riding together early on, but like Mark, Mike's Dakar as a rider finished prematurely. He's been traveling the rest of the event in the GHR camper.

New hood ornament for the GHR camper. It all worked out fine in the end though.

A sculpture beside the highway yesterday.

Very different scenes in the small villages and towns in Argentina.

Eucalypts by the roadside, just like home.

The truck gets a scrub!

She's not been this clean in a while...

The cleaners... These guys worked flat out for about 40 minutes. Excuse the water on the lens...

Even this late in the even the locals are still crazy for anything Dakar.

This kind of church-like architecture is common throughout Argentina, even for everyday buildings. Echos of the European influence from 500 years ago.

The lake coming into Cordoba. This area is very popular with tourists.

A far cry from the craziness of the Andes crossing: multi-lane highways with mowed lawn verges.

Smiles at dinner in Cordoba.

Evening screenings of the day's highlights have occurred most nights in the bivouac for those with spare time on their hands.

I should have some more to post later in the day.